Looking for a quick escape full of cozy fall ambiance and changing autumn leaves?
From the craggy coast of Half Moon Bay to the Anderson Valley vineyards of Mendocino, Northern California’s got the goods—and there are plenty of warming fireplaces, leaf peeping opportunities, quaint historic centers, and comforting cool-weather eats and drinks to last through till winter.
Take full advantage of the season at these five towns with strong fall vibes.
(Courtesy of @visitsuttercreek )
Fall is a particularly lovely time to visit the photogenic Gold Rush–era town of Sutter Creek. As the holidays near, Main Street, with its collection of boutiques and restaurants, is decked out with festive lights and colors while, just outside the town center, the oak lands put on a show of changing leaves. History nerds will love Sutter Creek’s collection of 19th century buildings, especially the Hotel Sutter ( 53 Main St. ), an 1852 former stagecoach stop that has been transformed into a well-heeled boutique stay. Sutter Creek is also a great place to cross some holiday shopping off your list. Check out The Antique Gardener ( 80 Main St. ), Cultivate Harmony ( 16 Eureka St. ) and Tigby Hill Vintage ( 65 Main St. ) for unique, crowd-pleasing gifts.
Half Moon Bay
(Courtesy of @visithalfmoonbay )
The joy of fall doesn’t end when Half Moon Bay’s famed Pumpkin Festival does. With a quaint downtown full of small local shops and eateries, and spectacular ocean views, the coastal community is magnetic all season long. Although the bulk of the Pacific’s migrating whales will pass between January and March, the Cowell-Purisima Trail ( 18501 S. Cabrillo Hwy ) and Cowell Ranch Beach ( Cowell Ranch Access Rd. ) are prime places for spotting the early birds passing in late fall. Whether you stay overnight or not, don’t leave town without digging into the comforting autumn menu at new, locally-sourced Italian restaurant Fattoria e Mare ( 315 Main St. ). If you need a cozy place to lay your head (and can’t afford the chichi Ritz-Carlton ; 1 Miramontes Pt. ), check out the affordable, nautical-themed Nantucket Whale Inn ( 779 Main St. )
(Courtesy of @exploreauburnca )
Autumn is a treat throughout the Sierra foothills but few towns are as seasonally sweet as Auburn. With a historic center and plenty of hiking trails through leaf-changing oak woodlands, this little town is primed for brisk outdoor days and cozy, firelit nights. Stay in the heart of it all at the Park Victorian ( 195 Park St. ), an elegant B&B decked out with marble fireplaces and Victorian-era charm. While there, don’t miss the cascade at Hidden Falls Regional Park ( 7587 Mears Pl. ), award-winning natural wines and great views at Paza Estate Winery ( 3357 Ayres Holmes Rd. ), and the French and Eastern European flavors of Restaurant Josephine ( 1226 Lincoln Way ).
(Courtesy of @avwinegrowers )
Technically not a single town but several tiny hamlets strung together along Mendocino’s Highway 129, the Anderson Valley makes for an ideal fall destination. In the crisp autumn weather, the region’s color-changing vineyards are at their most beautiful. Spend the day touring the dozens of small wineries operating between Yorkville and Navarro, a list that includes the illustrious Roederer Estate ( 4501 CA-128, Philo ), Navarro Vineyards ( 5601 CA-128, Philo ), and Scharffenberger Cellars ( 8501 CA-128, Philo ). At night, snuggle up at The Madrones ( 9000 CA-128, Philo ), which has two well-appointed lodging options, an on-site restaurant and tasting room, and the Art Deco cannabis apothecary, The Bohemian Chemist .
The dairy goats at Redwood Hill-Capracopia can be visited throughout October.
(Courtesy of @capracopia )
Positioned between Santa Rosa and the Sonoma coast, farm and vineyard center Sebastopol. With farm tours and apple picking, Sebastopol delivers an authentic taste of autumn; meet and learn about dairy goats at Redwood Hill-Capracopia ( 5840 Thomas Rd. ) through October, or head to Earthseed Farm ’s (3175 Sullivan Rd) to gather Fujis, persimmons, and pears ripe for the picking through November. Lean into the fall vibes even more by staying at a farm or winery overnight. Spirit Hill Farm (Mill Station Rd., Graton ) and Freeman Vineyard & Winery ( 1300 Montgomery Rd. ) are just two of several options. And don’t leave town without a sip of fall’s most refreshing spirit, apple cider from Golden State Cider ( 180 Morris St).